The Need for Intimacy Among Men

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. C.S. Lewis

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On August 27th, I led a men’s breakfast at Foothills Fellowship. My goal was to help men see the need for intimate male relationships, encourage them to be willing to explore this concept more, and eventually pursue such relationships. I gave them 6 reasons why I decided to speak on this topic.

1. Occasionally, I find myself telling my wife, Michelle, “I don’t need close male friends. I have you.” Emotionally, I may convince myself of this, but theologically, I know this is not right.

2. Most churches (including mine) stink at keeping single men connected to the church after high school. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that there aren’t any older men relationally connecting with these younger men.

3. Churches must have an answer for single men who struggle with same-sex attraction but want to honor God by remaining celibate. Deep and meaningful relationships with other men and families in the church is pivotal for helping these men stay connected to their faith and keep their commitment to celibacy. I recently blogged on this.

4. In college, I enjoyed deep male friendships, and I miss it. However, once I was married and had children, these relationships faded. Men must figure out ways to stay connected to one another after marriage.

Yes. That’s me on the right! And yes, I was in college. A senior as a matter of fact!

5. The Bible calls us to deep, intimate relationships with other Christian men, but our culture has made this almost impossible.

Sam Allberry, a pastor in Maidenhead, UK explains why: “Our Western culture has so identified sex and intimacy that in popular thinking the two are virtually identical. We cannot conceive of intimacy occurring without it in some way being sexual. So when we hear how previous generations described friendship in such intimate terms, we roll our eyes and say, “Well they were obviously gay.” Any intimacy, we imagine, must ultimately be sexual. But the Bible conceives of these things very differently. Sex and intimacy are not the same. It’s possible to have a lot of sex and yet find no intimacy. Sex is designed to deepen and express intimacy that already exists; it cannot in itself create it. But it’s also possible to have a huge amount of godly, healthy intimacy without sex.”

6. Men’s discipleship and sanctification is dependent upon deep relationships with Christian male friends. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Iron tools are made sharp, and fit for use, by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. He quickens his ingenuity, enlivens his affections, strengthens his judgment, excites him to virtuous and useful actions, and makes him, in all respects, a better, more godly man.

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There are other Scriptures that point to the need for intimate relationships between Christians (men in this case).

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. I read this passage at most marriage ceremonies I perform, but gender is not specified here.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A friend is sent into the world of another for this among other ends, that he might comfort and relieve his brother in his adversity.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor. This denotes the affection that ought to exist between spiritual brothers and is a badge of discipleship. To “outdo” one another means going before, leading, setting an example.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Christians are called to love one another – and this goes for men too. By doing this 1) it gives evidence that we are Christ’s disciples and 2) it shows unsaved people that we follow Christ.

John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is what Christ did for us. This is what we should be willing to do for others – including our brothers in Christ.

in I Samuel 18-20, we see the ultimate example of an intimate male relationship in David and Jonathan.  We see that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Once Jonathan realized that he would never assume the throne of his father because of his father’s sin and that David was God’s choice to be the next king, he made a covenant with David (rather than try to kill him) because “he loved him as his own soul.” In an act of great humility and love, Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his girdle.

The last time they ever saw each other, Scripture says that “David fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times; and they kissed one another, and wept with one another.” Jonathan was eventually killed, and David eventually became king, but their friendship and loyalty lasted long after Jonathan’s death. In 2 Samuel 9, we see David caring for Jonathan’s son as his own. “I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”

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Christian men need friendships like this, and it can happen. Pray that God would show you a man of two with whom you can work toward developing a deep and intimate relationship. It will take work and great intention, but it’s worth it. As a matter of fact, your sanctification depends on it!

To see more of these great old photos of men with their buddies and to read about the history of male friendship in America, click here.

To listen to the audio of the men’s breakfast discussion I had with the men from Foothills, click here.

The Command to Love Trumps the “Do Not” Commands

I’m preparing to address the men of our church on Saturday about love, intimacy, sexuality, and friendship. It’s an area of deep concern for me as our culture equates intimacy with sex creating a culture where biblical friendship and the call for non-sexual same-sex intimacy (like David and Jonathan’s) has become unattainable. As C.S. Lewis put it, “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.”

Friends, celebrating, sunset, river bank

When studying this topic, one inevitably comes across the writings of those in the church who have a same-sex attraction but have chosen – out of obedience to God – to remain celibate.  Reading the thoughts of these men has been very rich and helpful for me.  One such man is Wesley Hill, an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. About the topic of same-sex friendship, love, and intimacy he writes, “If we are going to say ‘no’ to gay marriage, we have to provide gay people with human relationships where we offer love, fidelity and mutual support.” I couldn’t agree more.

Hill goes on to say, “The Church in Corinth was one of the most difficult of the Churches founded by the Apostle Paul during his missionary journeys. He wrote more to address the problems in Corinth than he addressed to any other Christian community in the ancient world. Much of what he had to say to the Corinthians concerned adherence to the negative precepts of God’s law (including the prohibition of homosexual acts in 1 Corinthians 6:9). However, his letters to the Corinthians also contain perhaps the most moving statement in all Scripture of the primacy of the positive commandment to love.”

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul warns the church that if they don’t love others (enemies and outsiders included), then they are doing and have nothing. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

If we are going to passionately and with great conviction declare that homosexuality is a sin (which it is according to God’s Word), then we as Christ-followers must be the first in line to offer our homosexual friends the kind of deep, passionate, committed, and intimate love the Scriptures call us to give others. We must not just love homosexuals in theory but we must be willing to love them in practice. We must not tell them “no” without offering them the burning “yes” of our friendship, loyalty and love.